As far as digital output headphones go, Sony’s MDR1ADAC is a jack of all trades. Not only does this pair of headphones offer a detachable Lightning cable, but it also includes a USB-C cable, a 3.5mm cable, and proprietary connectors for the Walkman and Xperia mp3 players.
These folding over-ear headphones aim to provide the best digital signal processing at a reasonable price with their built-in DAC and amplifier.
One strange quirk of the DAC on these headphones is that it cannot be driven by Lightning power alone, and has a rechargeable battery that offers about 7.5 hours of playback.
Analog playback modes do not require this battery to be on, but using the Lightning cable does. But with the inconvenience of a limited battery life comes the convenience of a more powerful DAC and amplifier.
The end result of this design choice is that audio sounds fantastic on the MD1ADAC. Its 40mm drivers can achieve fantastic volume (controllable from the left earcup) and can output audio at 192kHz/24-bit.
Many other headphones will fall short of this level of detail, which gives these cans the edge in terms of an intricate reproduction of sound.
The midrange on these headphones is nice and clear and is complemented by expansive highs that help round out the frequency spectrum. The low-end, however, is a little sloppy, with a natural EQ bump blowing some sounds out of proportion.
Again, many prefer a sound profile with thumping bass, but given that these headphones are geared towards the accurate playback of uncompressed FLAC or WAV files, I consider this a downside to an otherwise balanced sound.
On the plus side, there is no distortion, even at the highest audio levels. Also, the somewhat shallow earcups are incredibly plush, making them one of the most comfortable headphones on the list.
But this is yet another headphone with no inline mic, which makes me wonder: is it seriously that hard to shove a pinhead-sized microphone into your high-end headphones?
My trite observations aside, Sony’s MDR1ADAC packs a lot of promise and features into one pair of headphones. This pair serves a variety of digital uses, and as long as you don’t mind periodically having to plug into a MicroUSB, these will be a top pick for many iPhone 8 converts.